“The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.” Those were the words spoken by an exasperated President Obama in a White House address last night as he made another appeal to House Republicans to send him a proposal on the debt ceiling that he could sign. On a day when the House Speaker Rep. John Boehner further complicated negotiations by suggesting a 6-month short-term increase in the debt limit, the President was forced again to make his case directly to the American public. The last few weeks has been a case study in political gamesmanship in the nation’s capital as Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have debated their different approaches to solving the nation’s long-term debt crisis and the White House has sought to strike a deal for the balanced approach President Obama has advocated.
In his remarks last night, the President reminded Americans that raising the debt ceiling has been a routine act under previous administrations, noting that President Reagan did so 18 times when he was in office. What distinguishes the current crisis is that all sides are seeking to overlay a long-term strategy on debt reduction over the heretofore common practice of raising the debt limit so the federal government can meet all of its financial obligations that have already been authorized. At the heart of the dispute between President Obama and congressional Republicans is a disagreement over the method by which to lower the deficit. The President is seeking a balance of revenue enhancements, closing tax loopholes and increasing tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, while also making cuts to entitlement spending. Republicans have countered with blanket opposition to any tax increases and demands for deep cuts in entitlements. A compromise package put forth by a bipartisan group of Senators, who have become known as the “Gang of Six,” was essentially rejected by Republicans in the House. With the clock ticking as the country faces an August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling or face the prospect of defaulting on its obligations, time is running out on the White House and Congress.
President Obama noted that Speaker Boehner’s latest proposal was unacceptable because it simply put off decisions on how to reduce the deficit until months later, when, judging by the current debate, the same stalemate would occur. The President called again for Congress to present him a compromise proposal that he could embrace.